Experimental Nonlinear Physics Group
What is Nonlinear Physics?
Nonlinear physics is a catch-all term for the study of the dynamics of driven, open,
non-equilibrium systems. Our group is mainly concerned with the phenomenon of pattern
formation. When a nonlinear, dissipative system ( that is, one with friction ) is driven hard
enough, it will often undergo a symmetry-breaking instability which takes it to a regular
pattern state. The pattern is a dynamical state sustained by the driving forces which can
have a high degree of periodic order and symmetry, even while it is producing and exporting entropy.
Patterns are simple examples of emergent, self-organized structures which exist under non-equilibrium
conditions. Surprisingly ordered nonequilibrium patterns are found in many different places in
nature, including convection cells in fluids, spirals in oscillatory chemical reactions, ripples on
blown sand, and in many biological and geological processes.
You can get more information on our experiments
in the following areas:
Media links: our experiments in the news
- Icicle morphology:
- Icicles' ripples part of enduring scientific mystery, The Toronto Star, Feb. 2014.
- Icicles: a Symbol of winter and a scientific mystery, Washington Post, Feb. 2014.
- Icicles: a symbol of winter and a scientific mystery, Santa Fe New Mexican, Feb. 2014.
- James Bond's Alcoholic Ways, Icicle Ripples, Chemical and Engineering News, Jan. 2014.
- Water impurities key to an icicle's ripples, Phys Org, Oct. 2013.
- Water purity key to wavy icicle riddle, Australian Broadcasting Corp., News in Science, Oct. 2013.
- Salted icicles have ripples, interview with Antony Chen on CBC radio, Quirks and Quarks, Nov. 2013.
- ¿Cómo crece un carámbano?, Noticias de Hoy, blog, Oct. 2013, (in Spanish).
- Pinch of salt makes for bumpy icicles Nature, Research Highlights, Community Choice, Nov. 2013.
- Ripple effect, Science News, Nov. 2013.
- FYFD blog, Jan. 2013.
- Riddles of a rippled icicle, Inside Science, Dec. 2013.
- Why do icicles have ridges? Pass the salt, Metro, Oct. 2013.
- Why do icicles have ridges? Science has the answer, MacLeans Magazine, Oct. 2013.
- Istapper giver fysikerne hovedbrud, Ingeniøren, (in Danish) Feb 2011.
- Freeze frame, APS Physics synopsis, Feb. 18 2011.
- Ice Cold Science in YES mag, (for kids) Jan/Feb 2011.
- How icicles get their myriad shapes, New Scientist TV, Jan 2011.
- O tajemstvích vody a (ne)dokonalostech rampouchů, OSEL (in czech), Jan 2011.
- Ice stalactite dynamics, Geology in Motion blog, Nov 2010.
- Icicle Shape Can Be Much Stranger Than Thought, FOX News, Dec 25, 2010.
- Így készül a tökéletes jégcsap , [origo] tudomány, (in Hungarian).
- Icicle shape stranger than thought, Knoxville news Sentinel, Dec 2010.
- As the icicle turns, Science News, Sept. 2010.
- The Different Shapes of Iciclology, Wired Science, Aug. 2010.
- Icicles in Toronto, Improbable Research, Aug, 2010.
- As the icicle turns, LabNews, UK.
- "A supernova in a jar", chemically reacting plumes:
- "Supernova in a Jar" Offers Peek Inside Star Death, National Geographic Daily News, Dec 2010.
- How to trap a supernova in a jar, New Scientist TV, Dec 2010.
- The Tabletop Supernova, Discovery News, Nov 2010.
- Physicists Mimic Supernovae Formation in the Lab, Physics Central Buzz Blog, Nov 2010.
- Self-Pinching Smoke Rings, Phys Rev Focus, Dec 2010.
- 'Supernova in a jar' created, CBC News, Dec 2010.
- U of T Physicists Unleash "Supernova in a Jar", The Torontoist, Dec 2010.
- University of Toronto physicists create supernova in a jar, Press release, Dec 2010.
- Order and disorder in shaken nails:
- Washboard road experiment:
- A summary page on the experiment, by Nicolas Taberlet.
- Road Bumps: Why dirt roads develop a washboard surface, in Science News, August 2007.
- Comment une piste devient de la tôle ondulée, in Le Monde (in french), August 2007.
- Road bump rage, in Blogcritics magazine, August 2007.
- Physicists hit the rippled road in Physics World magazine, August 2007.
- Ever wonder why dirt roads turn washboard rough? in ITWire magazine, Australia, August 2007.
- Bumpy roads got you rattled?, The Bulletin, Bend Oregon.
- Physics Of Bumpy Roads: What Makes Roads Ripple Like A Washboard?, Science Daily, July 2009.
- Study tries to explain washboard road phenomenon, OregonLive.com, July 2009.
- Rippled Roads - the granular physics of washboards, Through the Sandglass, March 2009.
- Columnar Joints and the Giant's Causeway:
- Giant's Causeway, Basalt, and Cornstarch, Suite101.com, Feb 2009.
- Mystery of Causeway stones unlocked in the lab, from the Belfast Telegraph, January 5, 2009.
- Mystery of natural hexagonal column formations solved with kitchen materials, Canada Standard, Dec. 2008.
- Mystery Of Hexagonal Column Formations Such As Giant's Causeway Solved With Kitchen Materials, Science Daily, Dec. 2008.
- Columnar Jointing Gives Rise to Natural Wonders, in APS News, May 2007. See this press release for more information.
The Experimental Nonlinear Physics Group, Dept. of Physics, University of
60 St. George St. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 1A7. Phone
978 - 6810.